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NK Indirectly Admitted HEU Program

Posted February. 22, 2007 03:42,   


Will North Korea include its Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) program in its nuclear program report by the April 13 deadline? It was reported that the Bush administration has low expectations of a comprehensive report and is considering a number of measures to be implemented if North Korea fails to report its HEU program.

On February 20, a diplomatic source in Washington suggested, “the countries involved could discuss the HEU issue in earnest in the second stage of the Beijing agreement,” also adding that North Korea’s handling of the HEU issue will have a significant effect on the future of the six-party talks. Why is the Bush administration so certain that the North’s HEU program exists? Here are some comments from former and current U.S. officials on the matter.

“Kang Sok Ju admitted the existence of the program” - The U.S. administration has maintained that the North indirectly revealed its HEU program, stating “when U.S. representatives, including Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, visited Pyongyang on October 4, 2002, Kang Sok Ju, North Korea’s first vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, mentioned that that North Korea could have more drastic measures at their disposal than what is currently known.” However, North Korea remained silent for the following month and repeatedly rejected claims of an HEU program, saying, “We never admitted to the existence of an HEU program.” The fact that many in Korea and the U.S. suspect a North Korean HEU program could also be put down to erroneous interpretation.

Regarding the matter, David Straub, a former State Department director of Korean affairs, who was present when the conversation took place, noted in an interview with Dong-A Ilbo, “vice-minister Kang’s comment was so shocking that once we, the U.S. officials, were outside the meeting room, we checked with each other if we had heard Kang correctly. Kang’s statement clearly showed that North Korea admitted its HEU program.”

Source of HEU program information is Korea - Over the last four years, the Korean government has declined to confirm its stance on the matter. Some senior officials of the ruling party have privately claimed that U.S. suspicion of the HEU program could be false and that the U.S. should take responsibility for triggering the North Korea nuclear crisis.

However, a high-ranking source familiar with White House foreign policy recently noted, “it was the Kim Dae-jung administration that first realized North Korea’s HEU ambition.” This could mean that Korea’s intelligence agency first learned of the North’s HEU program through the Human Intelligence Network (HUMINT) in the summer of 2002, and informed the U.S. government of their findings. This could have led to the U.S. becoming certain of the North’s HEU program after utilizing its own information network.

Solid information from Pakistan - Former Korean ambassador to the U.S., Han Seung-ju, remarked in 2004, “Those who read the Pakistan government’s report on Abdul Qadeer Khan’s smuggling ring would find it difficult to deny the existence of the North’s HEU program.”

In actual fact, there has been a great deal of information from Pakistan. Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf said in his memoirs - In The Line of Fire – published last year, “doctor Khan has handed over nearly two dozen P-1,P-2 centrifuges for enriching uranium to North Korea since the 1990s.” Doctor Khan, who is now under house arrest, is reported to have visited North Korea as many as 13 times.

Reports from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Congressional Research Service (CRS) also contain information indicating that North Korea imported 150 tons of high-intensity aluminum tubes, known centrifuge components, and failed in an attempt to import another 200 tons of the tubes from Germany. The CIA and CRS reports, however, maintain that there is no clear evidence that the North’s HEU program has progressed sufficiently to enable the production of nuclear weapons. A think-tank official, who requested not to be named, also stated on February 20, “The U.S. administration confirmed in its airborne particle analysis that the nuclear test North Korea conducted last October did produce plutonium gas. It appears that there is no specific information on how far North Korea’s HEU program has progressed.”